NEW YORK — Hundreds of space shuttle fans braved the chilly temperatures and biting wind Friday morning (April 27) along the Hudson River here to catch a glimpse of NASA's prototype orbiter as it flew past the museum it will soon call home.
Enterprise, the agency's original test shuttle, flew to New York today from Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C., atop a modified Boeing 747 jet. Before landing at New York's John F. Kennedy (JFK) International Airport, the piggybacking duo flew over the Statue of Liberty, then followed the Hudson River past the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum, where it will soon be placed on public display.
The shuttle flyover attracted fans of all ages, who gathered around the Intrepid museum and Pier 86 on Manhattan's west side to witness the historic event.
"How often do you get to see something like this — a shuttle on piggyback coming down the Hudson River?" said Kenneth Irvin, who came with his wife, Ceil, from Long Island. [Photos: Final Voyage of Space Shuttle Enterprise]
As Enterprise and its chaperone flew overhead, the crowd, which was made up of men, women and children of all ages, erupted into cheers and applause.
"It was absolutely amazing to see it like that," Adam Schechter said shortly after Enterprise's first pass. Schechter carried his young son, Harry, and spoke energetically about his experiences with the space shuttles, including seeing the STS-97 launch of the shuttle Endeavour in November 2000.
"It was amazing, and the loudest thing I ever heard in my life," Schechter told SPACE.com.
He also recounted a visit he and his son took to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va., where Enterprise had previously been on display since 2003.
Just over a week ago, on April 19, Enterprise was replaced at the Smithsonian by the shuttle Discovery, NASA's most-flown orbiter. Enterprise will now find a home at the Intrepid in an enclosure on the deck of the converted World War II-era aircraft carrier, until the museum finishes construction of the prototype orbiter's permanent display area.
Enterprise is scheduled to arrive at the Intrepid, which sits along the Hudson River, via barge in June.
But spectators today at Pier 86 got a sneak preview of the test shuttle that is now a New York resident.
And while the Irvins have never seen a shuttle launch in person, they said they have followed the shuttle program over the years. Ceil said she became interested in the space program during NASA's Apollo moon program, when she was working for Pan American Airways. For her, seeing Enterprise is a unique mix of two of her passions.
"This is a combination of the two for me," she said. "This is something I've always wanted to see."
But more than anything, locals in the crowd were just excited to have a piece of the shuttle program on their home turf.
"I'm glad New York was able to get it up here," Kenneth Irvin said. "I know there was a battle about which city it should go to, so I'm very glad New York got it."
And despite the cold conditions, the view was well worth it, Schechter said with a smile.
"It would have even been worth getting up 15 hours earlier for this," he said.